In 1862, an under-manned, under-equipped Mexican army defeated the French at the battle of Puebla on May 5th. Cinco de Mayo, started because of this event, has now become a widespread holiday in the US, where awareness and appreciation of Mexico and Mexican culture are of paramount importance.
So before you go out to Chi-Chi’s or On the Border or whatever lousy, tasteless, watered-down margarita-hole you plan on going to, I’d like to share with you something real. This is personal, political, and particularly topical in the current economic crisis: this is about labor issues. Know who this guy is?
This is César Chávez, a Mexican-American farm worker, union leader and labor organizer. Unions are something very personal to me, as I’ve been in United Teachers Los Angeles (and been protected by them from a tyrannical principal), Graduates Assistants United, and even organized and led the students in the physics department at University of Florida — successfully — in the fight to overturn wage decreases. On the other hand, there are darker sides to unions in many industries, including corruption amongst union bosses, decreased productivity at manufacturing facilities, and decreased corporate profitability. The UAW is quickly becoming a classic example of all three of these flaws destroying an entire industry.
Why is unionization a grey area for everyone involved? Because ideally, we’d like to have a solution where companies treat their workers fairly and equitably, and provide them with a good quality of life, but also produce and sell quality products and services at a net profit. Some industries need more Union involvement, while others need less. But regardless, the corporations need their workers and the workers need their companies. The decision to unionized or not should be examined on a case-by-case basis — by both employees and employers — to determine what’s best. But that’s not what NSRC would tell you. There’s a pending law known as the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for employees to unionize. After reading through it, I am for it.
This would particularly affect very large companies such as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, that engage in well-documented and questionable labor practices. It’s especially relevant for companies that have a large, unskilled, low-income workforce. It is pretty much irrelevant for everyone else, save to say that it protects workers from being singled out for a pro-Union stance.
LECG Corporation is a holding company of firms that testifies on behalf of corporations, produces studies for industry and government, and provides advice to many companies in the U.S. and internationally.
They’re a corporate-backed group paid to produce pro-corporation “research.” (And yes, they are for-profit.) And what do you think they concluded about the Employee Free Choice Act? From the article:
Thus, if EFCA passed today and resulted in an increase in unionization from the current rate of about 12% to 15%, then unionized workers would increase from 15.5 to 19.6 million while unemployment a year from now would rise by 1.5 million, to 10.4 million. If EFCA were to increase the percentage of private sector union membership by between 5 and 10 percentage points, as some have suggested, my analysis indicates that unemployment would increase by 2.3 to 5.4 million in the following year and the unemployment rate would increase by 1.5 to 3.5 percentage points in the following year.
The science of how they got those numbers is so abominable that I have to expose it here. This is their (greatly condensed) method:
- They take Canada as a model for the United States.
- They examine Canada’s unionization rates as well as their unemployment rates and investment rates in companies, over the time period 1976-1997.
- They make a mathematical model of how unemployment changes as a function of many factors, and leave unionization as a free parameter.
- They then determine what effect unionization has on unemployment and investment rates.
This is — first off — completely unreasonable. Why? Canada is a lousy model for the United States. Let’s compare, using data from LECG’s paper, the unionization rates of the US and Canada. First, let’s look at the US’s unionization rate over time.
And now, since 1976, let’s look at the US’s and Canada’s unionization rates side-by-side.
Do you notice how the US unionization rates have nothing to do with Canada’s, and how the two aren’t even comparable? Do you furthermore notice that — from 1976 to 1997 (the carefully-chosen dates of the study) — Canada’s unionization rate is constant with only small fluctuations? These are both huge flaws, but the latter one really atrocious. Why?
They are attempting to manufacture a correlation between two things where one doesn’t change appreciably over time!
Not only that, but there isn’t even a shred of evidence for a causal relationship between unionization rates and unemployment. In other words, even if they found a correlation, it doesn’t mean anything. But it gets worse. They model a system of only 22 data points with this equation:
Seriously, how does anyone take this seriously? And yet, corporations all over the world pay for and cite this “research.” I’m outraged, and you should be, too. So this cinco de mayo, think about standing up for your fellow worker’s choice to join a union, but definitely stand up against unsound science, math, and logic where you see it.